Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Someone's stalking the students at an all-female sorority house and ripping out their eyeballs. Then they learn that a repressed boy went mad and murdered his family there one Christmas. Has the old killer escaped from the mental asylum and come back to haunt them? Does anyone care?
In the world of Black Christmas George Michael's famous sentimental ballad would go "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart/ in a box, with veins and arteries still attached/ Spurting blood all over the place." It seeks to twist the season's cosy image and make the garish flashing of fairy lights somehow sinister. It fails, on so many levels.
A bevy of bootilicious students, (Katie Cassidy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Michelle Trachtenberg, none of whom are terribly memorable in this or any of their other films) are joined by their sentimental house mother (Andrea Martin, the skinny one from My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and a token boyfriend (Oliver Hudson), who's obviously only there to attempt to persuade you, for a fleeting second, that he might be the killer, as they prepare for Christmas. Within seconds someone's got the pen with which they were writing gift tags through the head and is being dragged off into the spooky attic. Guess what happens to the girl who goes to find her?
Soon the spooked teens learn that the house was formerly the scene of a mass murder, but that doesn't stop them going off alone to be picked off, one by one. The legend goes that a boy named Billy, who was locked up in the attic by his mother who raped him, went crazy one Christmas, mutilated his incestuous daughter and killed the rest of his family. He's supposed to be in the local sanitarium, but is he?
For such a straightforward film with very little plot, not a lot about Black Christmas makes sense. There's no real reason why the girls don't simply leave en masse - okay, it's snowing, their hair might get frizzy - and when they try to report the murders to the police they're told traffic's backed up and no one can come. What's that about (apart from lazy plotting)?
Writer/Director Glen Morgan is covering terribly well-worn territory that films with sharper scripts and better actors have done a hundred times. Just when it might get scary he veers off to present the madman sympathetically, but the flashbacks are peopled by hammy caricature characters and appear ridiculous. There are brief moments of humour when you think it might have been conceived as a parody, but they're too few and far between. All the way through you get no sense that anyone really knew what they were doing.
The approach is very old-fashioned; you simply can't make this sort of film for an audience that's seen the likes of Scream. We expect more twists and turns for our money. Unlike most modern entrants to the genre there are very few misdirects, and very little suspense. If the music gets tense and a shadow looms it's bound to be the killer, not a cat in the closet, and someone's about to get their eyes mangled. And what is it with the eyes? Yes, we have a knee-jerk reaction to the whole idea of someone attacking our eyes, but it's been done to death in recent films.
On the plus side there aren't buckets of blood being tossed every which way for no reason, and the gory bits tend to be short and sharp. Its most likely audience are bloodthirsty children, as there's a minimum of swearing, one saggy pair of tits, and a couple of really gruesome thrills of the sort kids find interesting - eating Christmas cookies baked from the skin of your dead mother, for instance.
I can't really think who else wouldn't be disappointed by the unconvincing special effects, ludicrous and confusing plot, and obvious 'twist' about the identity of the killer.